News item: The Bush administration says it will publish the prices Medicare pays for common procedures in order to encourage comparison shopping. A private Web site immediately began posting some hospital prices. Mr. McClellan, is it? You’re here for the… ….colonoscopy. The Internet Special. I believe it’s $1,299.95 through the end of this week.
Quite right. As I’m sure you know, many people are still a bit squeamish about the idea of a tube being inserted up their…lower intestine, so we’re offering a real “bare bottom” price, if you get my drift. Before we begin, though, there are a few questions I need to ask. First of all, would you like anesthesia?
Don’t I need anesthesia? Mr. McClellan, we don’t believe it’s our role to dictate to consumers what they “need.” Should you wish to decline anesthesia, we will provide you with a set of headphones, loud music and a shiny new bullet to place between your teeth. However, in that case, we recommend strongly that you select the “extra-narrow gauge” endoscope equipment package. Endoscope? The tube that we put up your… Umm, I get the picture. But I’m still a little confused about the anesthesia not being included.
When you fly coach, Mr. McClellan, do you still expect the airline to provide you with a lavish meal? Our hospital will never compromise on your safety, but surely you cannot expect that in today’s competitive environment we will subsidize your comfort. I apologize for even mentioning it. How much does anesthesia cost? That depends on how long you would like to be sedated. We have very reasonable prices on “deep-sleep” packages that come in 15-minute units. You the empowered consumer decide how long you want to be sedated. We also offer the “all you can sleep” option, where we keep you sedated from just before the procedure starts until your doctor is totally finished. We think of this as being analogous to buying the full tank of gas at the car rental counter. Most of our customers believe the peace of mind this option provides is well worth the small extra expense, particularly if their colonoscopy takes longer than expected. I certainly agree with that. By the way, how long does a colonoscopy take? It varies, but with Dr. Hoover, about forty-five minutes. Dr. Hoover? Dr. Hoover comes standard with the colonoscopy package you selected. Quite frankly, since he retired from full-time practice a couple of years ago, the other physicians have found it close to impossible to match his fee. Naturally, at this price we can’t allow any substitutions. Now, if you don’t have any questions you’d like to ask me, I think we can begin. I do have just one question. If during my colonoscopy Dr. Hoover discovers a suspicious growth that might be cancerous, what happens next? Unfortunately, our hospital has found that it isn’t really profitable to get involved in the “post-surgical” part of the business. However, one of our customer service representatives will be delighted to provide you with some shopping tips on “pathology labs.”
Copyright 2006, Michael L. Millenson. Michael is an author, health-care consultant and visiting scholar at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org <b<
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